Why Aretha Franklin Had To Stop Eating Chitlins

The widely-beloved Queen of Soul loved her soul food, and the Memphis-born singer and songwriter was no stranger to the kitchen, especially when it came to whipping up her favorite Southern dishes. However, Aretha Franklin ultimately decided to 86 a certain beloved staple from her diet as she progressed in age. In a 2008 interview with NPR, for example, Franklin revealed some of the items that she had planned for her holiday menu, including baked chicken and dressing, mixed greens, and turnips. 

Perhaps shockingly, she also divulged that chitlins, which have a secret historic code, would be removed from her cooking itinerary. For the uninitiated, chitlins are pig intestines that are either boiled or fried and often served with apple cider vinegar or hot sauce, according to Southern Living. They are what would be described as an acquired taste, but devotees can't get enough of them. Still, they can have adverse health effects on the human body when consumed too often, but just what caused Franklin to nix them from her diet?

Chitlins carry certain health benefits and risks

Aretha Franklin stopped eating chitlins because of their adverse impacts on her health, such as weight gain and raising her blood pressure levels (via NPR). Chitlins take a long time to prepare since, after all, they are intestines, and must be cleaned thoroughly before they can be safely consumed. In fact, the CDC has an entire page dedicated to preparing chitlins safely in order to avoid contamination with the germ yersinia, which can cause illness in humans. The Food Network noted that this is one reason why they are typically eaten during "special occasions," such as Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Franklin told NPR that she was giving up chitlins for health reasons, though according to Livestrong they do offer some nutritional benefits. Chitlins provide a good source of protein and contain valuable minerals. These include selenium, which can lower your risk of heart disease, and zinc, which helps bolster your immune system and regulate your metabolism.

Still, there was credible cause for concern in relation to the increased blood pressure. Organ meats, while full of nutrients, are also high in cholesterol, and elevated cholesterol levels can heighten your heart attack risk, per WebMD. Perhaps this is why Franklin confided to NPR that she knew crossing chitlins off her holiday menu would have her "fans and friends screaming Hallelujah."